Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called for immediate release of Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, who has been arrested by NIA and is due to appear before a New Delhi court on Wednesday for a decision on his bail application.
“It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The contradictory nature of the charges clearly shows that Kamran Yousuf is being used as a scapegoat in order to intimidate journalists who try to document the situation in Kashmir.”
Daniel said the authorities must free him at once and, above all, they need to understand that it is not the job of journalists to relay their propaganda.
“As a result of the constraints on press freedom, Jammu and Kashmir is in the process of becoming a new Tibet, a black hole for news and information,” he said.
A charge sheet produced last week by the NIA claims that Yousuf is not a “real journalist/stringer by profession” because he only covered “anti-national activities and never performed his moral duty as a journalist to cover developmental activity or the inauguration of a hospital or school building.”
The RSF said Kamran was arrested by J&K police on the pretext that he participated in a protest in which stones were thrown at the forces.
“Partly as a result of the repeated violations of the freedom to inform in the Kashmir Valley, India is ranked no higher than 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index,” RSF said.
Meanwhile, Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) has strongly reacted to the “new definition of a journalist” by NIA that was detailed in charge sheet of Kamran Yousuf.
“If the cops are supposed to define the roles and responsibilities of the journalists, which manage the fourth pillar of democracy, the universities that train thousands of journalists in a year across India must be locked,” the KEG members said.
They said re-defining journalism is usually been seen as an effort by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes and not democracies.
KEG reiterated its stand on Kamran Yousuf case that he has been a news photographer, who was freelancing with various media outlets.
The editors sought his early release and have continuously insisted that Kamran requires a fair trial.
“It has been a long time since Yousuf’s arrest that the investigators have probed almost all angles of his supposed involvement. So far, nothing has been proved as the charge sheet suggests,” the KEG members said.
“It is high time that Kamran is permitted to move out of jail and resume his routine and help his mother, the only relation he has, in surviving honourably,” the editors said adding, “His release will contribute to the strengthening of democracy and right to free speech.”